Smoking still serious health issue despite continued awareness

After years of awareness campaigns, the realization has come that smoking cigarettes is very harmful to personal health. Smoking can cause respiratory problems such as coughing, or increase the severity of asthma or bronchitis. It can also cause dental problems such as gum disease and tooth decay, or lead to premature wrinkles and leathery skin.

The idea that smoking can be harmful to your health is not a new concept. Then, why is it so common? Unfortunately, tobacco products are highly addictive due to their nicotine content. Nicotine addiction creates a compulsive impulse for the drug and therefore a repeated habit of smoking. There are several nicotine replacement therapies available to minimize the physical effects of nicotine withdrawal and help with quitting smoking.

Over time, smoking causes reduced lung quality and elasticity. While normal lungs will expel air out like a balloon, a smoker’s lungs are more akin to trying to force air out of a plastic grocery bag. To exhale, you would need to forcibly try to breathe out rather than having your lungs naturally return to normal volume.

Smoking can also significantly increase the likelihood of contracting a variety of life-threatening illnesses later in life. Smoking can place an individual at 2-4 times higher risk of heart disease or stroke, and 25 times higher risk of developing lung cancer. Many other cancers have also been linked to cigarette smoking, including mouth, larynx, esophagus, throat, kidney, pancreas, liver, colon stomach, bladder and cervical cancers.

Smoking is the greatest cause of preventable deaths in North America, as it causes approximately 480,000 American and 37,000 Canadian deaths per year. These numbers represent about one in every five American deaths and one in every seven Canadian deaths.

Perhaps most astounding is the observation made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “more than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.” Thus, cigarette smoking remains one of the most fearsome threats North America has ever faced. In fact, tobacco use prematurely kills more Canadians per year than all drug use, murders, suicides and traffic accidents combined.

It is also important to recognize smoking not only harms the smoker, but also everyone around them. Though various bylaws have been put in place to prevent smoking in most public places, over 1,000 non-smoking Canadians die annually from secondhand tobacco use. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of secondhand smoke due to their increased breathing rates, when compared with adults.

Though much of this information has been advertised to the public for years, we continue to see significant numbers of smoking-related deaths in North America. It is important to truly reflect upon the consequences of cigarette smoking and take steps toward quitting.

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